New lease on life

In a long list of tennis highlights, Fancutts Tennis Centre is one of Daphne and Trevor Fancutt’s proudest achievements.

In 1962, the couple bought three run-down, ant-bed tennis courts and an adjoining Queenslander – which would become the family home – in Lutwyche, five kilometres from Brisbane’s CBD.

“The courts were a mess, the place was a mess… but it didn’t mean a thing because Trevor had his tennis centre,” Daphne said.

Trevor had represented his country in the Davis Cup, played centre court at Wimbledon and won a Grand Slam mixed doubles title at the 1960 Australian Open, but owning a tennis centre was one of his lifelong dreams.

Through years of tireless work, his vision came to life.

Thousands came to play at Fancutts, from businessmen having a hit before work to children seeking coaching from the former tennis stars and now passionate teachers.

Two of their first pupils, Geoff Masters and Wendy Turnbull, went on win Grand Slam doubles titles of their own. In fact, many of the pupils they coached – including their three sons, Charlie, Michael and Chris – also went on to play at Wimbledon.

In the centre’s early years, the couple worked from six in the morning until eleven at night almost every day – maintaining the courts, running the centre’s operations and coaching.

Both were already accustomed to working hard in pursuit of their dreams.

Daphne grew up as the youngest of nine children on a form outside Monto, a small town three hours west of Bundaberg.

She ran a mile every morning and spent countless hours hitting tennis balls at an old wooden door her father had put up against the back steps.

“My parents had a policy that they would ask each of their nine children what they wanted to be, and whatever they wanted to be, they’d try to help them get there,” she said.

“My father used to say, to be conquered is never a disgrace. The only disgrace is not to have a go.”

When she could finally hit the door 100 times without missing, two years later, her parents followed through on their promise and took her to play her first major tournament, the state junior championships in Bundaberg.

“Nobody had ever heard of me, but with blood coming out of my cheap sandshoes, I won the singles and the doubles.”

The win jump-started Daphne’s career, which led all the way to a wonderful 1956 Wimbledon. In two appearances on centre court, Daphne played the Wimbledon doubles final with fellow Queenslander Fay Muller and the semi-final of the mixed doubles with her soon-to-be husband, Trevor – already an accomplished player from South Africa.

In her last international tournament, Daphne – who was three months pregnant with her first child, Charlie – won the Queensland Open against the same field of top players who played the Australian Open a few weeks later.

Many years later, she had the joy of watching her son Charlie win his Queensland Open, beating Pat Cash in the final.

Following their tennis careers, Daphne and Trevor devoted their lives to the tennis centre, which quickly became the family hub.

All three sons and their children grew up playing at Fancutts, living on site or in neighbouring properties.

In 2015, Daphne and Trevor decided to close the centre due to crippling operating costs.

The inner-city site was sold to RetireAustralia and will soon be home to hundreds of Lutwyche retirees as Fancutts Retirement Living, the company’s first vertical retirement community.

Architectural concept of Fancutts Retirement Living

It will include 183 independent living apartments and 35 care apartments, along with a resident wellness centre and exceptional community facilities like a rooftop sky deck, restaurant and private dining room.

Fancutts Retirement Living will offer spectacular views and residents will be just a short walk from the Lutwyche City Shopping Centre, which is currently going through a $40 million upgrade.

Excited by the project, Daphne has accepted the role of voluntary ambassador.

“Our Fancutts was a beautiful inner-city oasis of joy and happiness and although sadly it is now gone, Trevor and I are pleased with RetireAustralia’s plans for the site.

“It seems they will be creating another beautiful oasis, this time for people to enjoy in the latter part of their life.”

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